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Inquiry into relationship between international trade and the environment launched

14 August 2019

The International Trade Committee launches an inquiry into the relationship between trade and the environment. The Committee will examine how the Government should address environmental issues in its trade and investment policy – including at the WTO and in future trade agreements.

Purpose of the inquiry

The relationship between international trade and the environment is complex.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has argued that trade can have both positive and negative environmental impacts.

In its inquiry, the Committee will explore how the Government can support positive environmental outcomes through trade policy – including the achievement of the internationally agreed climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and how the negative environmental impacts of trade can be mitigated. 

In doing so, the Committee will examine how effectively existing free trade agreements address environmental issues, and consider how the Government could implement its commitment, as set out in the 2017 Trade White Paper, to “the maintenance of high standards of […] environmental protection in trade agreements”.

Chair’s comments

Commenting on the inquiry, Committee Chair Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said:

“Combating climate change has never been a more imperative policy goal in the national psyche, demonstrated by the Extinction Rebellion protests, which brought many of the UK’s cities to a standstill, and the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ by the House of Commons in May.

Increased levels of international trade can lead to negative environmental outcomes due the requirements of producing and transporting goods – which can be energy and resource intensive.

Counter to this, however, is the argument that increased trade can boost a country’s economic growth and access to new technologies – and therefore its ability to manage environmental challenges.

How the Government might be able to use trade policy as a tool in the battle against climate change has not been fully explored by policy makers.

My Committee’s inquiry will look at this issue in depth, with a view to coming up with practical, implementable policy suggestions to ensure that the UK takes advantage of the potential for trade policy to support positive environmental outcomes.”

Send us your views

The Committee invites submissions on some or all of the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between trade and investment liberalisation and environmental outcomes?
  • How effectively do trade and investment agreements address environmental issues, including climate change?
  • How does and should the Government approach issues of the environment and climate change in its trade and investment policy, and its work on export promotion?
  • How might the Government seek to address environmental issues, including climate change, at the multilateral and plurilateral level as part of its trade policy post-Brexit?
  • How can the imposition or reduction of tariffs on trade in goods be used to pursue environmental aims?
  • How can coherence be ensured between trade and environmental policy across Whitehall?

The deadline for written submissions is Tuesday 1 October 2019.

Send your submission using the written submission form.

Further information

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